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On Getting A Golden Ticket at Lake Sonoma by Eric Senseman


rabbitPRO Eric Senseman finished the Lake Sonoma 50 in 4th last Saturday and in turn earned himself a ticket to the ultimate test of endurance in the ultrarunning world - the Western States 100. He now has two months to train for the biggest race of his career. Find him on the starting line at 5am on June 23rd in Squaw Valley with seven other rabbit athletes. He will wear bib #38. 

"Everything except for right now is just an idea."

I recently read a quote that went something like that. It’s a pretty basic point but its implications are complex. The point implies that nothing in the future, including your hopes and dreams and aspirations, is real, or at least nothing in the future is actually real yet. Every future idea requires the passage of time and proactive action before it becomes reality. Interestingly, you have to focus on what you can do right now, in the present moment, in order to turn a future idea into a present moment, and so into reality. That’s a pretty complicated order of operations. When it comes to running ultramarathons, it’s a very important order of operations. That’s why I like the above quote: it boils down that complexity into something simple. And that distillation, too, is the key to running really far as fast as you can. Let me explain.

On the morning of Saturday, April 14th there remained exactly one way to gain entry into the 2018 Western States 100 on June 23rd. To gain entry into Western States, you had to line up at 6:30 a.m. that morning to race the Lake Sonoma 50 to try to earn a so-called golden ticket. To earn a golden ticket, you had to finish top 5, and you had to be one of the first two people to finish who didn’t already have entry into Western States and who wanted entry into the race. I wanted entry into Western States.

I’ve thought a lot about racing Western States over the past year or so. In February of last year, I raced the Black Canyon 100k in the hopes of winning a golden ticket, but I finished in 3rd and the golden ticket eluded me. Then, this February, I returned to Black Canyon for a golden ticket, but I arrived at the start line sick and I neither finished the race nor got the ticket. The idea of running Western States was beginning to feel like just that: some future thing that continued to stay in the future, that never became a present moment. After 15 months and two failed attempts, I had one last opportunity to gain entry into the big dance in June, or else the idea of lining up for Western States would remain just an idea for another year.  

Then the gun went off at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 14th. The idea of getting a golden ticket suddenly became the present moment. With each second that passed, I was existing in right-now time. The miles clipped by and I found myself in fourth place, and as just the second runner in the field without entry to Western States and so in golden ticket territory. I was then racing through a moment in time that would, if I continued to run hard and hold my position as the passage of time continued, put me on the start line of the Western States 100 in June.

But, of course, I didn’t think of those complexities. I didn’t think about the golden ticket or the runners trying to chase me down. I didn’t think about the miles passed by or the miles to go. I didn’t think about the passage of time or the one race that I’ve wanted to run for so long. I didn’t think about ideas or the future.

I thought only very simply. I thought about the right now. I stayed in the present moment. I did what you have to do to turn future ideas into current reality: I took proactive action as time passed by. I did whatever I could at every moment in time to run as fast as I could to get to the finish line.

As a result, fourth place never eluded me. The golden ticket never eluded me. I remained, from the first mile to the last, in that very same position. I finished in fourth. I earned the golden ticket. So, finally, in just two months, that distant idea of running 100 miles in California in June will become reality.   

Now the passage of time can’t happen quickly enough. 

Photos courtesy of Squirrel’s Nut Butter



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